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Indian researcher helping to introduce high yielding mushroom varieties by S. M. Jiffrey Abdeen - Kandy South Group Correspondent
A high profile researchist on mushrooms Dr. S. R. Sharma from the National Research Centre for Mushrooms, in Solan, India is currently in Sri Lanka conducting experiments at Matale, Gannoruwa, Nuwara Eliya and Seetha Eliya with his local counterparts to introduce high yielding mushroom varieties to Sri Lanka which is found to be successful could result in a major breakthrough in the growing of mushrooms for commercial purposes.
Dr. Sharma has already spent fifteen days of his sixty-day stay in Sri Lanka which had been as a result of the steps taken by the Regional Economic Advancement Project (REAP) in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture to transfer technic.
Dr. Sharma said that one of the varieties which they are trying to introduce to Sri Lanka is the high yielding Button mushroom (Agaricus-bisporous) which was first discovered in 1650 in France. Mushroom is a kind of fungi and a large number of edible varieties are in existence. Of this 80 varieties cultivated at a large or small scale. Another are 25 cultivated on commercial basis and a further 5 to 6 varieties cultivated on an industrial scale.
But the Button mushroom holds the position as the world's No. 1 mushroom accounting for about 37 per cent of world's mushroom cultivation. There is a very big demand for this variety of mushroom which could turn out to be a money spinner.
The other three varieties of mushrooms which he is trying to introduce to Sri Lanka on a large scale is Shitake Lentioula Edoles, Oyster Mushroom (Pleurofus spp) and Milky Mushroom (Calocybe indica).
Dr. Sharma said that the purpose of his visit is to explore the possibility of cultivating the above types of mushrooms and also stress on the importance of cultivating mushrooms, and why mushrooms should be grown on a large scale.
Mushrooms are a highly nutritious form of vegetable which contains quality proteins in large quantities with all useful amino acids which otherwise the human body is unable to synthesise. It is also rich in vitamins and minerals.
The other important properties of mushrooms are that they are highly medicinal and have been experimentally proved to be anti cancer (anti carcinogenic) and anti AIDS (proved in Japan and the United States of America). Mushrooms do not have cholesterol rather they have Eregasterol which brings down the level of cholesterol in the human body. They also have a high content of Potassium and Sodium which is a boon for high blood pressure.
Mushroom cultivation, has also been found to be the most important microbial technology to convert the millions of tonnes of Agricultural waste into nutrious food items which otherwise would have been burnt in the field or allowed to decompose resulting in enormous pollution.
Mushroom cultivation offers a great employment opportunity to the unemployed or under-employed as it is a labour intensive enterprise and the investments are minimal with a ready market for the produce.
Mushroom cultivation does not require any additional land and can be cultivated even indoors and hence there is no pressure on the land. In addition to room space, aerial space is also utilised in mushroom cultivation as it is grown in bags/beds in tiers. There is a tremendous demand for different kinds of mushrooms in the market and the mushroom cultivation can earn valuable foreign exchange. These are the benefits of mushroom cultivation.
The process of growing the four types of mushrooms is still in the experimental stage and some of the results have been very encouraging depending on the different agro-climatic conditions and the final results will be known in about five weeks time.
Scientists Mrs. Srimathi Udugama Alwis said that the current explorations in growing the new varieties of mushrooms could be a boon to the people if they take to mushroom cultivation using the spare space available in their dwellings. Now it has been found that paddy straw and grass which are usually burnt could be converted into compost and used as a medium to grow mushrooms.
Mrs. Udugama who is a scientist attached to the HORDI of the Department of Agriculture said that the government should set up spawn laboratories for the propagation of mushrooms and help the poor people earn a living.